I’ve been back in Maputo for a few weeks now, much of it spent renewing old friendships, relearning the minibus routes, and hunting down bairro architects. But I felt like my real welcome came on Thursday, at the university, when fortune led me into a chance conversation with José Pimentel Teixeira. JPT is a Portuguese anthropologist, and he’s also the proprietor of Vakani-Vakani (
formerly known as ma-schamba now back to being ma-schamba) one the most intellectually ecumenical blogs I’ve come across. Just check out the index of his 4000+ entries, which include posts on Montaigne, Asterix, Ernst Junger, and Woody Allen, and hundreds of entries on Mozambican and Portuguese politics and culture. Rarely does one meet people who take such an instant curiosity in the work of others, and treat it with such seriousness. We found common cause in defending Dylan’s “Mozambique” against the attacks of another blogger who equated that breezy ditty with the elegies of colonial nostalgists (Dylan used the word “Mozambique” because it rhymed with “seek”!), and then JPT wanted to know everything I was up to in Maputo. He read a bunch of Hotel Universo, and wrote it up on his site. Thank you JPT.
For those of you who read Portuguese, you must check out Vakani-Vakani, starting with the description of the Zambezi floods of 2001, which JPT recently reposted. Floods are the theme of the day at Hotel Universo, and the theme of the season for most of Mozambique. The central question: Should one stay or should one go? The most fertile lands are also the most prone to floods; people can get pretty stubborn about leaving. For those who don’t read Portuguese, check out the photos. The second shows a riverside grocery store half-submerged in the flood, yet still in business. The sign reads: “Faustino’s Store. We have goods kept cold by the river.”